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Gig Bag: November 2008

Are You Experienced?

At the second Experience PRS weekend, held at the company’s Maryland factory in September, guitar-industry types and six-string enthusiasts celebrated Paul Reed Smith’s handcrafted gems with cultlike fervor, through new products, clinics, tutorials, meet and greets, demos and evening concerts (including one too-brief set by Al Di Meola, fresh off the Return to Forever reunion and not too proud to play “Race With Devil on Spanish Highway”).

Despite the wretched economy, Paul Smith keeps releasing gear if you can wrangle the credit: Available now is the Starla model (pictured at left), a follow-up of sorts to PRS’ low-key Mira. The Starla aims to match modern PRS craftsmanship with a vintage blues and rockabilly vibe, and it features a single-cutaway mahogany body, a smaller 24 1/2-inch scale length, dot or optional bird inlays, and is the first solidbody PRS to include a Bigsby B5, a Grover Tune-O-Matic bridge, and Starla treble and bass pickups, which resemble the TV Jones FilterTrons in Gretsch guitars.

Also newly launched are the Modern Eagle II and the Al Di Meola Prism model (pictured at top), Di Meola’s first signature guitar despite being a PRS player for decades. Along with the custom curly maple “9” top and a custom neck shape, Di Meola’s ax features a singular, tie-dyed, California-hippie finish.

PRS’ new amp models were also on display, but will officially be introduced at the Winter NAMM show in January. Hand-wired, single-channel, boutique-y heads, available in 50- or 100-watt editions and covered in upholstery (with matching cabinets), they haven’t been priced just yet, but a 50-watt Dallas model sounded great. Of course, that handsome tone-at once articulate and smoldering-could have been the guitars, too.

Originally Published